Today I reach my 26-year breathing streak
No. 18: Pointing your way... the progress you can't see, a Gen Z rewriting of Harry Potter, my favourite TikTok and more
Hey! Welcome to issue 18 of my newsletter.
If you hadn’t worked it out from the title, today’s my birthday!
Every eyeball on my writing increases my chances of one day monetising my musings.
✍️ Writing Report
A personal essay I was drafting turned into a weird short story inspired by my COVID isolation last month. The draft is in bad shape right now, but if reworking it turns out well then I may share it on the blog.
Turning 26 has also prompted me to reflect on the past year. When I turned 25, I wrote a poem consisting of 25 lines. I did something similar this year, too. But I’ve also written a blog post to accompany it: “The Progress You Can’t See.” I’d really appreciate it if you gave it a read.
📚 Books I’ve Read
For my next newsletter, I intend to write a bit more about some of the books I’ve loved over the past several months. But for now, here’s a list of book recommendations from my recent reads:
David Eagleman, Sum
Andy Weir, The Martian
Ursula K. Le Guin, The Word for World is Forest
George R. R. Martin & Lisa Tuttle, Windhaven
Kristen Radtke, Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness
Lynda Barry, What It Is
Neil Gaiman & Chris Riddel, Art Matters
Cormac McCarthy, The Road
Caleb Azumah Nelson, Open Water
Make sure you’re subscribed to get more in-depth thoughts on each of these when I write a more detailed post next month.
📰 Further Reading
It’s always odd to see my old university’s name in the news – even more so when it relates to a confected outrage by tabloid media that it’s blacklisting books for harmful content. Mic Wright wrote a good newsletter covering that B.S. Times “investigation” into university reading lists from earlier this month. Wright also links a good thread on content warnings.
C. Thi Nguyen wrote an interesting post about education and teaching, focusing on how the job of an educator under the current system typically involves fulfilling three different functional roles: “Teacher, Bureaucrat, Cop.” Nguyen puts forward a case of how we might better teach students, such as allowing students to respond to the course material in creative ways aligned with their own career interests. For example, one of Nguyen’s students recorded and submitted “a podcast about Homer’s concept of heroism” for their final project. Also mentioned is the history of grading, which reminded me of Zoe Bee’s video essay on why grading is a scam.
“It’s honestly fine to read problematic authors,” says James Greig. I mostly agree with his wider argument. This piece was written shortly after a 20-year-old Twitter user shared a list of problematic authors. Paedophiles, racists, and the author who stabbed their wife are apparently equally as problematic as authors who… just write about these things in their books. On Twitter, I’ve read an unhealthy amount of discourse from readers unable to recognise that the presentation of problematic behaviours/themes in a book is not tantamount to endorsement by the author. And as Greig puts it (emphasis mine):
We should also recognise that some films and novels are, at once, ethically despicable and aesthetically brilliant, and that enjoying them doesn’t make you a bad person, just as reading wholesome books doesn’t make you a good one. Media consumption is not a form of activism, and rarely says anything at all about your moral status.
Tech CEO Dan Price made a name for himself when he made the minimum wage at his company, Gravity Payments, $70,000. Whilst I’ve never bought into the idea there can be such a thing as a truly good CEO, I had believed Price’s actions put him above the rest. However, allegations of abuse and rape (both old and new) have surfaced and revealed that he is just as evil as any other leech at the top. For Current Affairs, Nathan J. Robinson asks what this says about capitalism that the “only moral CEO” is an abusive narcissist.
Lastly, for this section, I stumbled upon a Gen-Z rewriting of the Harry Potter books. So far, I have only read the first chapter, “The Boy Who Wasn’t Unalived.” I cannot think of a better series of books to butcher and the results are hilarious. Here’s just one early paragraph:
The Dursleys had a future incel of a son named Dudley who they thought was the main character. The Dursleys were mostly thriving, but they also had lowkey tea which didn't pass the vibe check and their greatest fear was to get called out and cancelled. They were girlbossing too close to the sun and didn't think their clout could bounce back if their fam, the Potters, were revealed. Milf Lily Potter was Mrs. Dursley's sis, but Mrs. D had gone ghost; irl (no cap) Mrs. D fronted she didn't have a sis, because Lil and her deadbeat mans were straight up cringe. If the neighbors ever peeped the Potters, it'd be a big yikes. Lowkey the Dursleys knew the Potters had their own crotch goblin, too, but they'd never peeped. This bb was fr a solid reason 2 keep the in-laws yote; they didn't want Dudley mixing with a gross being like that.
📁 From the Archive
In three days’ time, it’ll be this newsletter’s one-year anniversary. After a year, I think I’m gradually getting the hang of this thing. Looking back, it’s interesting to see just how much the format has changed in 18 issues.
📺 What I’m Watching
As a huge fan of the A Song of Ice and Fire book series and the first four seasons of Game of Thrones, I’ve been pretty excited about this show. Considering how GoT ended, I watched the first episode with a modicum of trepidation. But if the rest of the series can maintain the quality of its opening episode, I’ll be a happy fan.
🐦 Twitter Thought
ian bremmer @ianbremmereurope water levels are so low that sunk nazi warships are popping up in the danube https://t.co/Dmtn9KtGvz
❤️ Something I Love Right Now
I saw this on Twitter. I’m still refusing to download TikTok but Sylvaniandrama is really testing my resolve. These little dramas are incredible, and every single one I’ve watched so far has at least one genuinely laugh-out-loud line that completely takes me off guard.